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Event previews: Track
Event descriptions Olympic and World records
There are a total of 12 Olympic track cycling events in the Sydney Games, separated into 8 men's and 4 women's events. While this doesn't cover the complete variation of track disciplines, most are covered and can be broadly classified into "sprint" and "endurance" events. For the newcomer to the sport, or even experienced observers, certain track cycling events can be a complete mystery. The following is a potted description of the races.
Match Sprint (Men/Women)
Traditionally held over 1000m, this event captures the essence of track cycling, although it is the most mysterious. Although it is normally a one-on-one event, earlier rounds can feature three or more cyclists on the track at the same time. One rider is designated to lead for the first lap (usually by a coin toss), and can not relinquish it unless those behind take it from him/her. The competitors typically eye each other off for the first 6-700 metres, trying to maneuver each other into an unfavourable position, before launching an explosive sprint for the last 200 metres. The first across the line wins the race.
Tactics are the key to this race, and many people wonder why it is so slow for the first two laps. The main reason is that unless you can surprise your opponent early, you will waste too much precious energy in starting your sprint from lap one. If the other guy is on your wheel, it's all over.
An important rule is that of 'possession' underneath the sprinter's line, a line marked 80 cm from the pole line near the base of the track. A rider who positions themselves below this line in the final 200 metres is not allowed to be forced out by another rider e.g. pushing in from the inside. This is one of the most often broken rules causing reversals in sprint results.
1,000 m Time Trial (Men)
Probably the most painful of track disciplines, the "kilo" as it is known commonly is raced as a time trial over 1000 metres. To do well in this event you have to have an explosive start, good top speed, and endurance to carry you through the last few hundred metres where the lactic acid buildup in your legs becomes almost intolerable.
The current record (see below) is just over a minute, held by Arnaud Tournant of France. In this event, two riders often start on opposite sides of the track although it is essentially an individual event.
500 m Time Trial (Women)
Held over half the distance of the men, the women's 500m time trial requires explosiveness as well as good top speed. Typically, the fastest 200m rider is also the best over 500, although this is not always the case. It is different to the men's race with respect to the endurance required.
Olympic Sprint (Men)
A three man time trial held over three laps of the velodrome, with teams starting on opposite sides of the track. After the end of each lap, the leading rider pulls off completely, leaving the next to fight the wind. Therefore, the first rider has to do one laps, the second, two laps, and the last rider three laps. Hence, rider number three typically has the best endurance: A good kilometre time trial rider e.g. Arnaud Tournant or Shane Kelly is chosen for this position.
2000 m Keirin (Men)
The keirin is a motorpaced event that is very popular in Japan where it originated. It is similar to the match sprint, but features 6 riders on the track. A derny motorbike paces the riders from 25 km/h up to 45 km/h for the first few laps. During this time, riders jostle each other for the best position and this is often the roughest part of the event. With two and a half laps to go, the derny bike pulls off and the sprint is on. Team tactics are important here, as the leadout is often quite long. If one team can get two of their riders in the final, then they are at a distinct advantage.
4000 m/3000 m Individual Pursuit (Men/Women)
Held over 4000 metres for men and 3000 metres for women, this is considered an "endurance" track event, although the speeds are still extremely high. Two riders start on opposite sides of the track and try to set the fastest time over the allotted distance. Normally, a qualifying time trial is ridden that determines who is eligible for the semi finals and finals. The fastest ride is often produced here, as in the finals, the only important criterion is to beat your opponent. If one rider catches the other, i.e. puts half a lap into them, then the race is over.
An explosive start is not critical (but it's handy to have), however the ability to ride at a consistently high speed is far more important. Many riders who go out too hard can look to be well up on their opponent, only to fade in the last 1000 metres. This has typically the greatest "cross-over" to the road. i.e. good pursuiters make good road riders and vice versa. Stuart O'Grady, Vjatcheslav Ekimov, and Chris Boardman are a few examples of top pursuiters who have had successful road careers.
4000 m Team Pursuit (Men)
This event is raced by the men only, and held over 4000m. Faster than the individual pursuit, although it is still an endurance event, the team pursuit is about clockwork precision as well as high speed. Two four man teams start on opposite sides of the track and try to set the fastest time over the distance as with the individual pursuit. The time taken is on the third rider to cross the line.
Riders must follow each other at a few cm difference to gain the maximum drafting effect from the rider in front. Turns of pace are often half a lap, although the stronger riders can do full lap turns. The world record for this event was set by Italy in 1996 and is close to 60 km/h!
60 km Madison (Men)
This race is named after Madison Square Garden in New York where the event was first held (also called "Americaine" in French. Two man teams contest the 240 lap (60 km) event. After a mass start where all riders are on the track, only one rider from each team is allowed in the race at a given time, meaning that teams must take it in turn each lap (or more) to have a rider in the race. Changeovers are quite dangerous, but impressive to watch when done well - one rider circles around waiting for his teammate, who joins hands and imparts his momentum to the slower rider.
To win the madison, the team must score points by sprinting every 20 laps for bonuses (5, 3, 2, 1 points). The last lap counts for double points, but the winner of this does not necessarily win the event. Also, if a team can gain a lap on the field, then they are in the leading position of the race no matter how many points they have.
40 km/25 km Points Race (Men/Women)
This is a solo event, scored similarly to the madison and raced over 160 laps (40 km) for the men, and 100 laps (25 km) for the women. Again, a rider scores points in intermediate bonus sprints every 10th lap (5, 3, 2, 1) with double points awarded on the last lap. If a rider can lap the field, then they win the race.
Olympic and World records
MEN 200 m Flying Start Professionals - Open air track J. F. Kennedy (USA) 10.405 24/08/91, Colorado Springs (USA), 7-11 Vel. Professionals - Indoor track Michael Hubner (DDR) 10.345 20/08/90, Maebashi (Jpn), Green Dome Amateurs - Open air track Michael Huebner (DDR) 10.118 27/08/86, Colorado Springs (USA) Amateurs - Indoor track Vladimir Adamachvili (Urs) 10.099 06/08/90, Moscow (Rus) Absolute Record Curt Harnett (Can) 9.865 28/09/95, Bogota (Col) 500 m Flying Start Professionals - Open air track D. Rueda Efrain (Col) 27.432 12/12/86, La Paz (Bol), Alto Irpavi Professionals - Indoor track Michael Huebner (Ger) 27.350 18/01/92, Stuttgart (Ger), H.M. Schleyer Vel. Amateurs - Open air track R. O'Reilly (USA) 26.993 23/11/85, La Paz (Bol), Alto Irpavi Amateurs - Indoor track Alexandre Kiritchenko (Urs) 26.649 29/10/88, Moscow (Rus) 1 km Standing Start Professionals - Open air track D. Rueda Efrain (Col) 1.05.100 15/12/86, La Paz (Bol), Alto Irpavi Professionals - Indoor track Stephen Pate (Aus) 1.04.147 19/03/89, Launceston (Aus) Tasmania Amateurs - Open air track Maik Malchow (DDR) 1.02.091 28/08/86, Colorado Springs (USA), 7-11 Vel. Amateurs - Indoor track Alexandre Kiritchenko (Urs) 1.02.576 02/08/89, Moscow (Rus) Absolute Record Arnaud Tournant (Fra) 1.00.148 16/06/00, Mexico (Mex) 4 km Standing Start Amateurs - Open air track Christopher Boardman (GBr) 4.24.496 28/07/92, Barcelona (Spa), Horta Velodrome Amateurs - Indoor track Viatcheslav Ekimov (Urs) 4.28.900 20/09/86, Moscow (Rus) Absolute Record Christopher Boardman (GBr) 4.11.114 29/08/96, Manchester (GBr) 4 km Teams Pursuit Standing Start Amateurs - Open air track Germany 4.08.791 31/07/92, Barcelona (Spa) (Michael Gloeckner, Jens Lehmann, Stefan Steinweg, Guido Fulst) Amateurs - Indoor track Germany 4.08.064 16/08/91, Stuttgart (Ger) (Michael Gloeckner, Jens Lehmann, Stefan Steinweg, Andreas Walzer) Absolute Record Italy 4.00.958 31/08/96, Manchester (GBr) (Adler Capelli, Cristiano Citton, Andrea Collinelli, Mauro Trentini) WOMEN 200 m Flying Start Open air track Isabelle Gautheron (Fra) 11.383 16/08/86, Colorado Springs (USA) Indoor track Galina Enukhina (Rus) 11.101 04/07/92, Moscow (Rus) Absolute Record Olga Slioussareva (Rus) 10.831 25/04/93, Moscow (Rus) 500 m Flying Start Open air track Isabelle Gautheron (Fra) 30.590 14/09/86, Cali (Col), "A.N. Patino" Indoor track Erika Saloumiae (Urs) 29.655 06/08/87, Moscow (Rus) 500 m Standing Start Felicia Ballanger (Fra) 34.010 29/08/98 , Bordeaux (Fra) 3 km Standing Start Open air track Jeannie Longo (Fra) 3.38.190 05/10/89, Mexico (Mex), Cent. Dep. Olimpico Indoor track Jeannie Longo (Fra) 3.41.061 25/05/92, Bordeaux (Fra), Velodrome Absolute Record Marion Clignet (Fra) 3.30.974 31/08/96, Manchester (GBr)
MEN 200 m Flying Start Gary Neiwand (Aus) 10.129 24/07/1996, Atlanta (USA) 1 km Standing Start Florian Rousseau (Fra) 1.02.712 24/07/1996, Atlanta (USA) 4 km Standing Start Andrea Collinelli (Ita) 4.19.699 24/07/1996, Atlanta (USA) 4 km Teams pursuit Standing Start France 4.05.930 27/07/1996, Atlanta (USA) (Christophe Capelle, Philippe Ermenault, Jean-Michel Monin, Francis Moreau) WOMEN 200 m Flying Start Michelle Ferris (Aus) 11.212 24/07/1996, Atlanta (USA) 3 km Standing Start Antonella Bellutti (Ita) 3.32.371 26/07/1996, Atlanta (USA)